Is Science a Case of Wasteful Competition?

20 Pages Posted: 6 Aug 2005

See all articles by Hendrik P. van Dalen

Hendrik P. van Dalen

Tilburg University, CentER; Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI)

Arjo Klamer

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Faculty of History and Arts


Science is a winner-take-all profession in which only a few contributions get excessive attention and the large majority of papers receive scant or no attention. This so-called 'waste', together with all the competitive strategies of scientists seeking attention, is part and parcel of every creative profession and not a worrisome fact, as the price society pays for human ingenuity is extremely small: 0.0006 percent of world income goes into the publication of scientific research. The more worrisome features of competition in academic economics do not reveal themselves through ordinary citation or publication statistics or competitive attention seeking strategies, like starting fads and networking. Badly designed uses of market principles, in which citations and publications have become the sole measuring rod of scientific 'productivity', deserve more attention instead of the excessive focus on being uncited. To detect the real story of scientific progress, or to judge academic work, 'reality economics' or 'learning by asking and watching' should complement citation and publication statistics.

Suggested Citation

van Dalen, Hendrik P. and Klamer, Arjo, Is Science a Case of Wasteful Competition?. Kyklos, Vol. 58, No. 3, pp. 395-414, July 2005, Available at SSRN:

Hendrik P. Van Dalen

Tilburg University, CentER ( email )

Tilburg University
P.O. Box 90153
Tilburg, NL-5000 LE
+13 4668982 (Phone)


Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI) ( email )

P.O. Box 11650
NL-2502 AR The Hague
+70 356 5237 (Phone)
+70 364 7187 (Fax)


Arjo Klamer (Contact Author)

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Faculty of History and Arts ( email )

P.O. Box 1738
Rotterdam NL-3000 DR
+3110 - 4081808 (Phone)

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